Those of you who were kind enough to read and even comment upon my last Musings may recall that I said I would consult with my brother, Alan. IRO had suggested a “Western” themed model challenge based around “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” and this led to me mulling over who, in Hollywood acting terms, would be the nominees.
Now my brother is a world leading authority on all things “Old West”, so much so that Google refer to him before responding to user enquiries on the subject. I should also point out that he, possibly like a good many of us, has OCD, to such an extent that we refer to it as CDO – you gotta have those letters in order!
Before handing over to my brother I think I ought to take a leaf out of the BBC’s book. When they introduce the sports news they invariably say something along the lines of “for those of you who do not want to know the score look away now”. This article is very much about Western Movies so log off now if it’s not your cup of tea and simply try to contain you excitement between now and my next more modelling related post. That doesn’t excuse you IRO for whom his 5th film choice, set in Australia, may surprise you!
Over to my brother …
Having pondered the question posed by TIM, or my brother as I call him, as to who really were the goodest, baddest and ugliest actors, from within the western movie genre, I came up with a shortlist of about fifty. However, I doubted that my list would match anyone else’s by a country and western mile, so I decided to take another look at this and try to do better.
A good western usually has a hero, a villain, a smattering of love and if you’re really lucky some degree of authenticity. For example: Nobody wants to see Gary Cooper’s portrayal of an 1880’s Sheriff using a Luger from the 1940’s, falling in love with someone that looks like your grandmother, or having to defend the townsfolk from a baddie, who is only 6 feet 3 inches tall when sat on his horse.
You catch my drift I’m sure.
So, with that broad generalisation in mind, what western movies have some, if not all of those elements, which ones to choose and where to start? Shane was mentioned by TIM and I can’t fault that movie for the first of my Top 5 choices, which are in no particular order, other than release date.
Shane, made in 1953, was one of the first grown up westerns, based on a grown up book by Jack Schaefer. Alan Ladd plays the hero, Jack Palance the baddie, Jean Arthur is the love interest and Van Heflin, although not the ugliest of actors, definitely clipped a couple of branches when he fell from the ugly tree. The Ryker brothers are no oil paintings either, being played Emile Meyer and old time character actor John Dierkes. The movie was directed by George Stevens and the scene where Shane (Alan Ladd) shows the young Brandon De Wilde how to shoot, includes one of the fastest ‘real-time’ draws by any actor in movie history.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, made in 1962, has two hero’s for the price of one in this classic John Ford western. John Wayne and James Stewart play the hero’s, Lee Marvin is the baddest of baddies, Vera Miles is the love interest and as you would expect from a John Ford movie, there are more character actors than you can shake a stick at. John Carradine, Andy Devine, Strother Martin and Edmund O’Brien, are just four of them and although none are truly ugly, they’re close enough. The excellent Denver Pyle and Woody Strode also appear.
Ride The High Country, made in 1962, has another two hero’s for the price of one in this early Sam Peckinpah western. Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea play the hero’s and Mariette Hartley is the love interest. The Hammond brothers, acted by John Anderson, John Davis Chandler, James Drury, L.Q. Jones and Warren Oates play the baddies and uglies between them. This vastly underrated and rarely seen movie is a real gem and well worth checking out.
Once Upon A Time In The West, made in 1968, is a sprawling epic of a western by Sergio Leone. Charles Bronson plays the hero, Henry Fonda the baddie, Claudia Cardinale is the love interest and Jason Robards rides the rail between goodie and baddie. The uglies, for want of better candidates, are played by Woody Strode, Jack Elam and Al Mulock, but as these guys don’t speak and are all killed off within the first fifteen minutes, I’m not sure they count. Nevertheless, with a run time of nearly three hours, this film is now generally acknowledged as a masterpiece and one of the greatest films ever made. So who am I to argue with that?
Quigley Down Under, made in 1990, is my last choice and is certainly not your average western, being set and filmed in Australia. However, this is a terrific movie which echoes back to Hollywood westerns from the 1940’s and 1950’s. Great music, a good storyline and strong cast. Tom Selleck plays the hero, Alan Rickman makes a nasty baddie, even for an Englishman and Laura San Giacomo is the love interest. There are no uglies, the whole cast being as good looking as the epic locations. The film was directed by Simon Wincer.
Finally to sum up. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Good: Charles Bronson, Alan Ladd, Joel McCrea, Randolph Scott, Tom Selleck, James Stewart and John Wayne.
Bad: Henry Fonda, Lee Marvin, Jack Palance, Jason Robards and Alan Rickman.
Ugly: This was a difficult category to fill, especially with names that anyone would remember and therefore it has been left intentionally blank. Hollywood rarely employ ugly people and there are three good reasons for this:
1: They are not good box office.
2: Roles would be few and far between.
3: No one wants an ugly person crying in their office.